FORT MYERS, Fla. — Grocery retailer Kroger is expanding its reach into the Sunshine State and eyeing a possible presence here in Southwest Florida.
Company leaders believe that customers will “Go Krogering” entirely online, unlike Walmart and Publix. There is no need for a brick-and-mortar location.
Online ordering will be possible with the help of both manpower and artificial intelligence.
It’s a plan they’ve put into practice over the summer in Lake County at their new Customer Fulfillment Center.
Groveland’s new 375,000-square-foot facility is fully automated. A grid of more than 1,000 robots moves around the facility. It is powered by an identical system to an air traffic control tower. Plastic totes are used to load products that were picked up earlier by warehouse workers.
The bots can then sort the items to prepare for delivery – fragile items, raw items, perishibles — all separated intelligently like you would expect at a brick-and-mortar store.
The Groveland building serves as a hub. Kroger states that every hub it builds can provide service within a 90-mile radius. Kroger currently boasts two locations. “spoke”Facilities in Tampa, Jacksonville and elsewhere to help extend their reach.
The company can’t put a delivery date on their arrival in Southwest Florida just yet, but in a recent article in the Gulfshore Business Daily, company officials confirmed the Naples and Fort Myers regions are on their radar as locations for a new distribution spoke within the next year.
A “spoke”Southwest Florida could provide up to 180 jobs and another shopping option.
Kroger’s e-commerce plans, even though they don’t plan to open any stores in the area, will put it in direct competition with Winn-Dixie, Publix and Aldi. They also offer delivery options through Instacart.
Target is also available through Instacart. Its delivery service is operated by Shipt of Alabama, which it purchased, while Walmart operates its own service, Walmart+.
Amazon is also building a new marketplace where Kroger will be competing directly. Amazon has plans to open a new distribution facility in Fort Myers.
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